f/k/a . . . the archives

September 21, 2008

lawyers eliminating witnesses: oh, Cisco!

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,Procrastination Punditry — David Giacalone @ 7:34 pm

. . . . . . Robert Simels & A. W. Parker . . . . .

The New York Times recently noted that “The federal complaint against Robert Simels, a well-known New York criminal defense lawyer, reads like a script from an HBO crime drama.”  “Defense Lawyer Charged With Witness Tampering” (Sept. 11, 2008).  That’s because

“Mr. Simels, who has represented some of New York’s most notorious gangsters and rappers and an assortment of athletes and celebrities, was arrested on Wednesday and charged in what officials said was a plot to “neutralize” witnesses who were willing to testify against one of his clients [Shaheed Khan, an accused drug kingpin with reputed ties to the Guyanese government].”

– Read more about the indictment of Bob Simels at the WSJ Law Blog, and Simple Justice, which links to this affidavit in support of the arrest warrant.

It may seem like an HBO crime episode, but while I was watching my favorite $5 dvd this afternoon, I discovered that the Simels tale also “reads like a script” from the classic 1950′s network tv western The Cisco Kid.  Trying to avoid any serious punditry today, I put a disc from “The Best of the Cisco Kid” in my dvd player.  The first episode I played, out of the 35 on the 3-disc set, was “Confession for Money,” from the show’s first season.  Unless I was in Mama G’s lap, at 13 months old, when she watched its original broadcast on January 2, 1951, it was my first time seeing “Confession for Money.”

The story opens with the fictional lawyer A. W. Parker (played by I. [Isaac, "Ike"] Stanford Jolley) visiting his jailed client Tom Tracey.  We quickly learn that the Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho Gonzales were witnesses to Tracey killing a popular banker and were due in town that morning to identify Tracy for the Sheriff.

Here’s an outline of the Cisco Kid‘s lawyer-gone-bad tale:

  • Lawyer Parker suggests to Tracey that they break him out of the jail and then split the $75,000 take from the bank robbery
  • Tracey says they don’t have time, with Cisco arriving soon, and that they instead need to kill the witnesses before they identify him.  Parker quickly accedes to his client’s idea, and sends two bad guys with rifles to ambush and kill Cisco and Pancho.
  • When the bad guys flub the ambush, Lawyer Parker is mighty irked.
  • Parker then draws up a false confession for a young man who is desperate to get $5000 for an operation for his sick mother (one more skewed decision due to the lack of universal health care coverage).  Parker tells the kid they’ll spring him from jail before trial. The Sheriff lets Tracey go and jails the kid, once he sees the confession.
  • To make sure the youthful confessor doesn’t change his mind, Tracey has his gang whip up a lynch mob, but Cisco and Pancho sneak him out of the jail.
  • Parker joins the lynching posse that chases Cisco and the misguided youth, and they end up in the usual shootout behind really big rocks.
  • The Sheriff arrives and tells the mob to put down their guns.  Parker jumps on his horse and heads back to get his papers and split town.  Cisco follows and catches Parker in the getaway cabin, but Tracey arrives and Parker takes away Cisco’s gun, handing it to his client. And, then . . . (see below for the exciting conclusion).

If the ugly allegations against the well-known NYC criminal defense lawyer Bob Simels turn out to be true, life as he has known it will change drastically. Scott at Simple Justice tells us:

“Though a bit on the arrogant side (and who isn’t in this business) and not exactly a warm and fuzzy guy, he’s smart and well-respected.”

Sixty-one-year-old Bob Simels appears to be the sort of Baby Boomer who would have grown up watching The Cisco Kid. Had Simels recalled the “Confession for Money” episode, he might have just said “no” to the whole idea of turning outlaw with his clients.  You see:

Lawyer A. W. Parker had planned to split the loot and split the territory with killer Tom Tracey.  But, before Cisco could subdue the two of them, Tracey holds up his money satchel and tells his  lawyer, “I was gonna take you with me, Parker, but I just couldn’t find room for you in my bag.” He then shoots Parker dead.  Of course, Cisco wins the ensuing fistfight with Tracey and brings him back to town to face trial on two counts of murder.

– By the way, there was a real-life 19th Century New York lawyer who went by the name A. W. Parker.  Thanks to the Google digitalization project, I found him representing the appellant in the case of Benner v. Atlantic Dredging Co. (NY Ct. of Appeals, 1892).  The real Lawyer Parker apparently did negligence defense work.  He helped his client reverse a judgment against it for damage that occured to a house that was near a site where the dredging firm was blasting rocks in a harbor for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Simels Law Firm website is no longer accessible.  According to Propaganda Press, however, the Welcome Page at the Robert Simels firm contains this perhaps ironic paragraph (emphasis added):

“I have handled many high-profile cases, with an outstanding success rate across a broad range of issues. The key to our many acquittals in criminal cases and multimillion dollar verdicts for our clients is preparation and complete participation by our clients which result in highly effective and compelling cases in the courtroom.”

You can find much more about Robert Simels and his career, in this Sept. 11 article from his hometown newspaper, the Lewisboro Ledger.  As you surely know by now, the f/k/a Gang doesn’t go for cheap, obvious jokes.  But, we’re really surprised that other, less classy weblogs, haven’t pointed out the town where he resides –  Waccabuc, which is a hamlet in Lewisboro, Westchester County, New York.  Fortunately, neither Cisco and Pancho, nor most lawyers I’ve known, would whack a witness for a buck, or a laugh.

p.s. I think even our toughest critics will agree that this lengthy, time-consuming detour into Witness Elimination Lore was a highly successful piece of Procrastination Punditry.  It certainly has left us with no energy nor inclination to write any serious commentary this evening.  In honor of the many hours I will surely devote to watching the Cisco and Pancho in days to come, I inaugurated a new posting category today called “Procrastination Punditry.”  We’ll be using it whenever there is virtually no excuse for a post other than our avoiding doing something more pressing and important.

high noon
the boys refill
their water pistols

……………………… by Tom Painting – July Selection, Snapshot Press 2005 Haiku Calendar

morning shadows—
the gunslingers wait
for high noon

…….. by David Giacalone, Legal Studies Forum (Vol. XXXII, No. 1. 2008). Click for the original haiga (photo with poem) at HaigaOnline, Issue 7-2 (Autumn-Winter 2006), photo by Arthur Giacalone, JD.

7 Comments

  1. Yay, Cisco. When I was a child, I had asthma. Duncan Renaldo’s (Cisco’s) child has asthma too. Somehow it came to pass that I was able to meet him privately when he came to my hometown. He gave me a kiss on the cheek (I did not wash my face for days) and an autographed photo of himself and Diablo. He wrote a message on the photo to me (Taffy as I was known back then); I wish I knew where that is photo is now. I cherished it back then. Thanks for triggering a good memory, David.

    Comment by Stephanie — September 21, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  2. Oops. I meant Renaldo’s child HAD asthma. Perhaps he grew out of it as I did.

    Comment by Stephanie — September 21, 2008 @ 8:37 pm

  3. Hi, Stephanie. I’m pleased my little post gave you a happy memory and earned us two comments from you. I hope all is going well with all your many projects.

    Comment by David Giacalone — September 21, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  4. neutralizing witnesses? wow. terrible.

    Comment by kouji — September 22, 2008 @ 12:09 am

  5. Here’s an update, published today, about the feds most-recent efforts on the Simels front: http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=17515

    Comment by Van Smith — February 12, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

  6. Many thanks, Van, for the pointer. You’re the first reporter to help us find follow-up information on a case. Your article is filled with interesting details in this continuing Simels saga.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 12, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

  7. And here’s another, about Simels response to the govt’s motion in Baltimore: http://www.citypaper.com/digest.asp?id=17560

    Comment by Van Smith — February 20, 2009 @ 8:29 am

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